Obedience in the Unexpected
Four years ago I sat down with a pen and my journal and wrote out a list of big dreams I believed the Lord had placed in my heart. I remember writing them down feeling the weight of their impossibilities on my shoulders. Even with these impossibilities running through my head, I wrote with passion and conviction. At the time I was engaged and preparing for a wedding in the coming months. My future husband and I were dreaming about what life could look like as husband and wife, and we both desired to start our marriage on a clean slate together with fresh vision. He had encouraged me to write down big dreams, and I did it with trembling fingers.
I remember showing him my list and him reading through it and affirming every dream I had written down. At the top of that list was the dream to start a ministry that would reach women globally. I longed to share Christ through creative ways and to reach past the borders of the U.S. with the gospel. At the time, I had no idea how anything like this could ever become reality. After we got married in November, these dreams came to a screeching halt when I found out my mom was in ICU on our honeymoon. I spent the first few weeks of our marriage traveling back and forth to help care for my mom who was battling several autoimmune diseases that were wreaking havoc on her central nervous system. Dreaming big seemed like a far off daze during those moments of desperation.
Within those first few months of marriage and my mom's hospital stay and recovery, my husband and I moved to a new city for him to work at a church plant. Before my eyes were boxes and wedding gifts needing to be unloaded as well as a blank canvas to start life fresh on. Through my mom's sickness, I had been reminded of how brief life is, and my husband and I both decided that if I was going to pursue any of those dreams, now would be the time to do it. I looked back through that long list that I had made months before to pray about which direction I was to take. As I read, I came across this statement: “I want to live life beautifully for the glory of God.” That was the moment the Lord gave me the name for the ministry He would have me start: Life Lived Beautifully.
It’s ironic how God can use times of brokenness and transition to reveal the path we are to take. He is never unaware of our circumstances. We can know for a fact that He is always working, always leading, and always teaching us. I began Life Lived Beautifully with a vague business plan and little money in the bank account. Each step I took felt like I was reaching into the fog. But with each step, God lifted the haze to show me what was next. I began to learn that obedience never guarantees a road map, but it certainly guarantees a full, abundant walk with God. We were made to obey the Word and to live with reckless abandon. Disobedience leads to a lack of joy and the pursuit of the temporary. But obedience to God’s Word and His calling on our lives leads to deep communion with Him. This life is too short to be wasted and not lived according to His Word.
There’s a common misconception about obedience that I used to believe, and you might be believing as well. It’s the notion that following Jesus is easy and obedience is natural in the life of the believer. Often, we are told that if we obey Christ we will reap material blessings. While He does provide for us, the aim of obedience is never to “get” a material blessing, it is to gain Christ. As I walked along the narrow path of starting Life Lived Beautifully, I had to learn the obedience of surrender over and over and over again. With each plan or idea I had, God would take it and either scrap it or completely remake it. This was a continual process I learned to embrace. It’s in each step and with each soul scrub that we inch closer to where He calls us to go.
Elisabeth Elliot once asked this convicting question, “Does it make sense to pray for guidance about the future if we are not obeying in the thing that lies before us today? How many momentous events in Scripture depended on one person's seemingly small act of obedience! Rest assured: Do what God tells you to do now, and, depend upon it, you will be shown what to do next.” This is exactly what I started to do - whatever was right in front of me. When I began Life Lived Beautifully I had a vision of creating a modest clothing line for women that could eventually provide jobs for women in India and sell their hand-crafted items. After I learned that I didn’t love the art of sewing, I began making hand-stamped necklaces for missions. I quickly realized that stamping metal keys was loud and couldn’t be done in an apartment. So I began jewelry, and then stationary, and then artwork. All of these pursuits didn’t reap a huge harvest, but they were fruitful steps of obedience.
However, about one year after starting Life Lived Beautifully, I was ready to completely give up. I still hadn’t landed on what I was to focus on creating, and I didn’t know what the next step was to take. I began writing in my journal about my desperation and asking the Lord what I was supposed to do. It was in that moment that I hit rock bottom that God gave me a new direction. He planted a dream in my heart to create a quiet time journal that would encourage and equip women to get into the Word of God every day. Obedience is not giving up on the dream God has planted in our hearts. It is doing whatever it takes to know Jesus and make Him known—and using whatever gifts or resources He has given us to just that!
I had no idea how to make this happen and no design background, but as I began to pray and dream up the vision for this idea, God began to bring people to help me make it happen. He always equips us for what He calls us to do! Over the next few months I worked tirelessly to create the “Give Me Jesus” journal. I spent my entire savings from the business to create the first batch, knowing that if they didn’t sell I was already out of business. Within the first hour of the launch, every one of them sold out. God has used my brokenness to show me what I was to do next for His glory. He never allows any season of life to be wasted!
It felt as if I had come back to my first love. When I was in high school I longed to be a Bible teacher to women and to share truth in creative ways. Never did I dream that I would create quiet time journals and share Bible studies through social media! But that is how God works. He uses what we least expect to make much of the Kingdom. He redefined the dream He had placed in my heart as I surrendered it into His able hands. He always writes better stories than we ever could!
It’s been three years since the launch of that first journal and I still have to come back to the fact that success is not a number, it is obedience. Living for the applause of this world will dry us out in a second, but living for an audience of One brings freedom, fullness, and joy. That is what obedience is about. It is about knowing Jesus and making Him known. It is about taking tiny steps forward, trusting His sovereign hand to lead us. It is about doing the next thing that is right in front of us. Obedience is about loving the Lord our God with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength.
The journey that God has you on may seem completely unexpected. Embrace this! Don’t run from the foreign, unfamiliar path. Follow Jesus wherever He leads. And when you can't see where the next step is in front of you, inch up to the cross through the Word and ask Him to show you what is next. Do what you read in Scripture, use your gifts and passions for His glory, and you will live the most successful life, one that is obedient and surrendered to Christ.